On Jan. 22, the University of Maine announced that eight students, Kelsey Allen, Max Burtis, Sam Dorval, Steven Ferrarese, Evan Horenstein, Suzie Milkowich, Alexander Karris and Lori Sitzabee are competing in the Greenlight Maine Collegiate Challenge. This season’s eight collegiate challenges offer the opportunity for winners to take home $25,000 to jumpstart their businesses. The Greenlight Maine Collegiate Challenge has featured college students from around the state in previous seasons, but this season highlights young entrepreneurs from the UMaine community.
Greenlight Maine is a collaboration of business owners, investors and entrepreneurs from around the state of Maine with the collective goal of promoting innovation and business growth in the state. Originally, Greenlight Maine presented the show on News Center Maine and catered toward entrepreneurs from around the state, but after seeing success, expanded to highlight the business aspirations of college students. In the past, the show has garnered interest from outside investors and helped struggling businesses re-establish themselves in the local economy.
Each contestant contributes a business pitch for their personal company. Milkowich, a first-year university studies student, says that her company Let’s Go Bagz focuses on creating bags from reconstructed materials. Karris, founder of Family Time Memory Software, and Horenstein, founder of Find my College Roommate, are focusing on pitching more technological-related products and companies.
The students compete against each other in different groups. For those involved, the contest serves as creative inspiration and the competition gives them the drive to spend more time and energy on their respective projects.
Milkowich emphasized just how important it was for her to work hard in this competition. She explained that she has struggled with bipolar disorder, which has made it hard for her to find motivation and new ideas in the past. At 57, Milkowich went back to school and started her own company to pitch during Greenlight Maine.
“The experience [with Greenlight Maine] has just been so positive for me and for my self-esteem [and for] my ideas,” Milkowich commented.
In the midst of the competition, these students maintain goals that are unique to each student and their company.
Horenstein hopes to reduce conflicts between roommates with his software, while Karris hopes to help future generations learn more about their cultures and heritage. A major goal for Milkowich is to run a more eco-friendly company and use 100% recyclable materials.
While each of the contestants hope that they will win the final prize to supplement their business development, many of them also feel as though a win would better their communities around the state by helping provide jobs and resources to Mainers. These entrepreneurs hope their companies will stimulate Maine’s economy with innovative ideas and entice a diverse population of people with rewarding jobs. In the past, Greenlight Maine competition winners have been able to open businesses that have offered over a hundred job positions for Mainers and have had large impacts on their local communities.
The Maine Collegiate Challenges will continue throughout February. For more information, visit https://greenlightmaine.com/maine-collegiate-challenge/.